How to import a car from Australia into the UK

Buying a classic Down Under is a great idea – and getting it home to Britain needn’t be a headache if you follow our extensive guide

Australia has a lot going for it: great weather, sunny skies and cars that have their steering wheels on the correct side. These factors combine to make it a great source for good-condition classic cars – if only it wasn’t so far away, right?

Well, distance need not be an obstacle in your search for that rare historic, as there are a number of reputable shippers and transport specialists who can take the hassle out of getting your vehicle into the UK. There are still a number of considerations to be aware of, though, so we look at what it takes to import a car from Australia into the UK.

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Preparing and collecting the vehicle for shipping

You have finally found that perfect classic waiting for you in Australia, so it will now need to be prepared for its trip to the UK. The very first step is to identify a vehicle shipping specialist and get the vehicle to it.

The majority of reputable specialists offer a collection service from most major city centres within Australia. If your car is somewhere less accessible then you may need to discuss your options with the shipper, as some outsource the collection service to transport companies.

As insurance limits for transport firms vary, it’s worth checking whether they cover especially valuable vehicles. To reduce any potential damage, it can be worth spending extra or an enclosed trailers, if available.

An odd starting procedure or maybe a mechanical fault should be reported to the shipper and/or transport company beforehand. You should also have the motor fully photographed and its condition recorded prior to collection.

Looking to drive the vehicle to the shipping-collection point? Then you’ll need to register and insure it for use within Australia, which can often cost more than transport company fees. If not, then you should not have to pay any local taxes or custom duties.

Most shippers will drain any excess fuel in your car free of charge, so it can legally travel. For customs clearance, you will be required to submit the original vehicle title, your passport and a bill of sale. You will also need an export permit, which can either be filled out using a B957 form or electronically. Arrange this beforehand via a courier, and your shipper will if usually do the rest on your behalf.

Shipping the vehicle

You have the choice of either shipping your vehicle by sea in a consolidated container (with other cars heading to the same destination), in its own container or via RoRo (Roll-on Roll-off). RoRo is the cheapest method; however, your car will need to be roadworthy as it’ll be driven on and off the ship, and will be exposed to the elements and possible unintentional damage while in transit.

Sharing a consolidated container is the next best option, and depending on the port from is worth the slightly higher cost than RoRo. The containers remain locked for the duration of the trip, so you will also be able to pack parts and spares into your car as well, although restrictions may apply. If you’re importing multiple cars or prefer not to share, you can book for your own container – although this tends to cost up to three times as much as the consolidated option.

If you’re in a hurry and do not mind the expense, air freight is by far the quickest way to get your car into the UK. You can even opt for a sealed container. Do not forget to get transport insurance whichever method you choose; the average cost of this is usually around two per cent of the vehicle’s value, although this figure can go down on very high-value cars.

Landing in the UK

Once the car’s arrived in the UK, it’ll need to be collected from the port and cleared by the local customs agents. Budget on around £475 for this process. Most shippers will assist you, although certain aspects must be completed by you. We have outlined the entire process as it is worth knowing what is required in case there are any hiccups along the way.

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HMRC

Firstly, you must inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that your car has arrived. Do this within 14 days to avoid penalties, using the online Notification of Vehicles Arrivals (NOVA) tool. The alternative paper notification option will only delay your car’s release.

The relevant taxes and VAT owed will then be calculated. EU-manufactured cars of over six months old with more than 3750 miles/6000km will incur no taxes. The NOVA from may not require completion depending on whether the vehicle is being imported privately or via a business. Contact the HMRC directly to find out which alternative forms you will still have to fill in.

DVLA

With all applicable payments made, you’ll receive online HMRC confirmation that the vehicle can be DVLA registered. You should apply for a used vehicle import pack or V55/5 form for this process.

Jack Charlesworth of MyCarImport specialises in assisting people with registering their cars with HMRC and the DVLA. He says that the complicated import pack sent out by the DVLA can be tricky to navigate for the first time, and MyCarImport’s team is on hand to assist with the process. In light of this, not all the steps below may apply in your particular case, especially if your car falls into the 40-years-and-older category.

  • Supply an original non-UK registration document (beware - you won’t get this back). No document available? Obtain a letter with a dating certificate from the maker.
  • Use the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to obtain a certificate of insurance.
  • Vehicles made prior to December 31, 1976 don’t need to be taxed, and starting from May 2018, there will be no MoT requirement, either, on a rolling basis for cars of 40 years and older. Up until now, it has applied only to pre-1960 models.
  • You could register a non-runner as SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification). This will save you on MoT and tax fees until you get it back on the road again.
  • You’ll need photocopies of your name and address – a UK driving licence or passport, and a current utility bill, will work here. Importing the car through your company? You must show proof of your business address.
  • Evidence of Type Approval in the form of a Certificate of Conformity (for RHD cars), Mutual Recognition Certificate (LHD cars need this, too) or evidence of previous UK registration (V5C form). An Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test will need to be carried out if none of these forms is available or if the vehicle was registered outside of the EU.
  • Cars first registered or built more than ten years ago may not require vehicle approval.
  • The owner must insure all cars set to be used on UK roads. Specialist classic insurers such as Hagerty and Footman James can offer bespoke insurance solutions.
  • The first £55 registration fee may need to be paid to the DVLA; this can only be paid via cheque or postal order.
  • You may need to convert your car to comply with UK laws. Common modifications include converting km/h speedos to mph readouts, although cars over ten years of age generally don’t require this. Foglamps, too, aren’t required on pre-1980 cars, and the headlight beam pattern should be fine if the car is RHD.

Getting your car home

This may seem like an awful lot of bother, but the process is quite routine and many thousands of classic cars are imported in to the UK each year. If you cannot bear to wait any longer, and your vehicle has been insured and fitted with local number plates, then you can collect it from the shipper directly. Alternatively, the vehicle can be stored at the agent’s warehouse until you are ready to pick it up. Some even offer a delivery service straight to your door.

The import process is lengthy and can take up to two months to complete depending on the shipping method and location of the vehicle. But that will soon be a distant memory once that gleaming classic is parked in your driveway. Remember to follow the steps required and use a reputable shipping agent, and importing a classic from Australia can be far less daunting than you might at first imagine.

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